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If you are getting ready to enter the job market, researchers in Sweden have some advice: Avoid developing the physical condition that can mean lower pay for the rest of your life.
The Swedish research that examined the employment history of young men in Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States shows that obese teenagers with big waistlines are generally doomed to lower salaries during their entire working life, earning, on average, 18 percent less than their leaner peers.
Other studies have demonstrated that obese young women earn smaller salaries than their more svelte counterparts. But this study shows that being overweight is a singularly difficult problem for men who were already overweight as teenagers. However, men who gained larger amounts of weight later in life did not suffer the same types of consequences.
“To put this figure into perspective, the estimated return to an additional year of schooling in Sweden is about six percent. The obesity penalty thus corresponds to almost three years of schooling, which is equivalent to a university bachelor’s degree,” conclude the scientists.
The same patterns were found in all three countries, showing that this wage penalty applies to men who are already overweight or obese early on in their lives.
The scientists think that much of this wage penalty is linked to the fact that obese adolescents’ often display lesser levels of cognitive and non-cognitive abilities. This can stem from being bullied when young because of their weight as well as suffering from low self-esteem and being discriminated against by other students and teachers.
“Our results suggest that the rapid increase in childhood and adolescent obesity could have long-lasting effects on the economic growth and productivity of nations,” warns researcher Paul Nystedt. “These results reinforce the importance of policy combating early-life obesity in order to reduce healthcare expenditures as well as poverty and inequalities later in life.”